Meditation Basics

Many people think meditation is emptying our minds of all thoughts. That’s not the case at all. Meditation is just focusing our minds on one thing while attempting to ignore extraneous thoughts. It takes practice, but anyone can do it because we already know how: daydreaming is a kind of meditation.

Have you ever driven along with your mind wandering and missed an exit? You were shutting out extraneous thoughts in favor of others. Maybe you should have been paying attention to your driving instead of whatever you were daydreaming about, but there it is: you were meditating. Formal meditation is simply learning to do it more specifically.

First we need quiet conditions with as few distractions as possible. It helps to have something neutral to look at, like a spot on the wall or a candle flame. (If we close our eyes, we’re liable to doze off.) Music or the sound of water flowing can help screen out distracting sounds, as long as the music is relatively boring. We don’t want to listen actively, just be left in peace for a few minutes.

It’s best to concentrate our thoughts on something neutral. Many people find that paying attention to their breathing is the way to go. Others follow the patterns of a drawing, or watch waves on the beach (we can even imagine them if we aren’t there). The idea is to avoid distractions so that we can stay focused. It will become easier with practice.

We try to fight off our thoughts. If we fight — attempt push thoughts away — we’ll only concentrate on the battle and it will make things much more difficult. Rather, we acknowledge the thoughts as they pass through and then immediately return to our breathing or whatever. We do that almost constantly in the beginning. Just like any other skill, it takes practice to do it automatically. They call it “practicing meditation” for a reason.

That’s all there is. There’s no point to this kind of meditation except doing it. The benefits come along without our even noticing it, when we become better able to concentrate on simple things and let our subconscious minds work on the things that are troubling us.

It will seem like you’re never going to get it. We don’t learn to play the piano, paint a masterpiece or execute a perfect jeté, kata or golf swing in a few fifteen minute sessions. Worthwhile things almost never come that easily. But millions of people can attest to the benefits of regular meditation. Since it’s part of the Eleventh Step anyway, now is a good time to start.

A final note: People in early recovery have a lot of trouble when they start meditation. It’s a neurological thing. That’s no reason not to try. Practice makes it easier, but addict thinking wants things right now. It will come. Keep practicing; it helps the addict thinking, too.

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